Abigail Adams, Founding Mother
Abigail Adams played a supporting role as wife of one president, and mother of another. But, an American patriot in her own right, she believed deeply in the goals and aspirations of the new nation she’d helped found.
Braintree, 26 December, 1783.
My dear son,
Your letters by Mr. Thaxter, I received, and was not a little pleased with them. If you do not write with the precision of a Robertson, nor the elegance of a Voltaire, it is evident you have profited by the perusal of them. The account of your northern journey, and your observation upon the Russian government, would do credit to an older pen.
The early age at which you went abroad gave you not an opportunity of becoming acquainted with your own country. Yet the revolution, in which we were engaged, held it up in so striking and important a light, that you could not avoid being in some measure irradiated with the view. The characters with which you were connected, and the conversation you continually heard, must have impressed your mind with a sense of the laws, the liberties, and the glorious privileges, which distinguish the free, sovereign, independent States of America…
A Mother’s Warning
Abigail goes on to discuss the tendency of power to corrupt:
a benign deity, when exercised in the suppression of fraud, injustice, and tyranny, but a demon, when united with unbounded ambition…Not an age of the world but has produced characters, to which whole human hecatombs have been sacrificed.
(A hecatomb is defined as “the sacrifice or slaughter of many victims”.) Her examples of corrupted societies are ancient, the Assyrians, the Macedonians, the Romans, but she could just as well have been forecasting the brutalities of twentieth century National Socialism and Communist Socialism.
And a Mother’s wish for her budding statesman
The history of your own country and the late revolution are striking and recent instances of the mighty things achieved by a brave, enlightened, and hardy people, determined to be free; the very yeomanry of which, in many instances, have shown themselves superior to corruption, as Britain well knows…Glory, my son, in a country which has given birth to characters…which may vie with the wisdom and valor of antiquity. As an immediate descendant of one of those characters, may you be led to an imitation of that disinterested patriotism and that noble love of your country, which will teach you to despise wealth, titles, pomp, and equipage, as mere external advantages, which cannot add to the internal excellence of your mind, or compensate for the want of integrity and virtue. May your mind be thoroughly impressed with the absolute necessity of universal virtue and goodness, as the only sure road to happiness, and may you walk therein with undeviating steps, —is the sincere and most affectionate wish of Your mother,
If you’d like to read more, you can link to Volume I of Abigail’s letters on Google Books.
To all my U.S. readers, have a safe and sane Fourth of July!
Images: meme is from Stencil.com; portrait of Abigail Adams is in the public domain, available at Wikimedia.com